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Worts and All ~ Airmid Goes a'Berrying!

Lughnasadh greetings to all my friendly readers from Airmid the Wortcunning Fairy!

I hope you are all having a bountiful early harvest because now is the best time for enjoying fresh treats from the fields and gardens-- especially berries. The most popular berry of Lughnasadh is the bilberry, also known as wild blueberry or huckleberry. These are smaller, juicier, softer and darker than the blueberries you would find at the supermarket, although they taste just as sweet. In Ireland, these berries are called fraochán. In the old days, everybody would get together and go bilberry picking around Lughnasadh, which was not as easy as it sounds because the best bilberries grow in the thickest patches of heather on the hillsides and peat lands. It's well worth the work, though, because later there would be scrumptious cakes, tarts and for the adults bilberry wine. If there is a good harvest of bilberries, the rest of the crops are sure to be abundant later in the year. (Bilberries on the bush. Photo by kahvikisu via flickr Creative Commons)

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The strawberry is a magical berry that is familiar in many cultures. It is a member of the rose family. This delicious fruit was cultivated by the Romans as early as 234 BC, while Native Americans were probably also growing them but who knows for how long? Medieval stonemasons carved strawberries into the stones of cathedrals and churches, along with other good-luck symbols from the Old Religion. According to an ancient Egyptian myth, if you eat 300 strawberries you will turn into a cat! I don't suggest trying to see if that works, but I do recommend strawberries as an excellent snack because they have more vitamin C than any other berry--even more than oranges. (Basket of strawberries. Photo by Ewen Traveler via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Another berry in the rose family is the raspberry. Red raspberries are the most popular but there are also purple, black and yellow ones. Juice or tea made from these berries soothes sore eyes and sore throats. Blackberries grow all over the world and are known by many different names. They may be the first berries enjoyed by humans, since seeds have been found in neolithic settlements. Being the oldest known berry, there are a lot of magical beliefs surrounding the blackberry. The first blackberry you see in the springtime is supposed to be able to banish warts. Never eat blackberries after Samhain because the pookah spit on them and spoil them that night! (Blackberry ice cream sandwiches! Photo by Ralph Daily via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Now to my personal favorite--yummy blueberries! No wonder the native Americans considered them a special gift from the gods. They call them "star berries" because the blossom end of each berry is star shaped. This is another berry that they shared with the first Europeans in the New World. The Indians liked blueberries so much that they figured out a way to smoke-dry them to preserve them like raisins over the winter. Bears especially love blueberries and will travel as far as 15 miles to raid a good patch. All parts of the blueberry plant, roots, leaves and fruits, are useful as medicine. (Blueberry yogurt parfait. Photo by Vegan Feast Catering via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Always remember when you go berry picking, one berry to avoid is the fruit of the nightshade. These are small berries that are shiny black and grow inside an upside-down star. Although the nightshade is in the same family as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and chili peppers, it is a POISON PLANT! Cows, rabbits and birds can eat the berries with no ill effects but it is toxic to humans and most other animals, so please stay away from the nightshade bush! Say no to nightshade! Have a very berry Lughnasadh, worts and all!

by Gillian Green

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From 2006 to 2010, www.broomstix.com was an online magazine for families following alternative spiritual paths. Relaunched in 2013, Broomstix has a new format, but the same, simple goal: to be a positive community resource where folks can share their knowledge and talents.
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